Revolutionary Self-Assembling Conductive Sensors Elevate Wearable Tech –

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Penn State researchers have developed a 3D printed, soft, and stretchable material that self-assembles. This material is designed to advance soft robotics, skin-integrated electronics, and biomedical devices by matching the properties of tissues and organs while providing high conductivity.

3D printed sensor attached to a finger. (Image Credit: Penn State University)

Traditional liquid metal-based conductors require complex secondary activation processes, which can cause device failure due to leakage. The research team, led by Tao Zhou, has utilized a new method combining liquid metal, the conductive polymer PEDOT, and hydrophilic polyurethane.

This composition allows the material to self-assemble during the printing and heating process. The liquid metal particles form a conductive pathway on the material’s bottom surface while oxidizing to create an insulated top layer. This dual-layer structure ensures accurate data collection by preventing signal leakage.

The new material does not require secondary activation to achieve conductivity, simplifying the fabrication of wearable devices. This innovation in materials science enables the creation of sensors that can be worn on the body, such as those for muscle activity recordings and strain sensing. The researchers continue to explore applications, particularly in assistive technology for people with disabilities.

This work, published in Advanced Materials, was supported by various Penn State departments and collaborative programs. You can read the full research paper at this link.

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